Interview with Charles Sherrod
QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT I'M GETTING AT WHEN I ASK UH, HOW YOU FELT WHEN DR. KING CAME IN WAS, IT WAS A SNCC-INITIATED OPERATION GOING ON HERE IN ALBANY, AND DR. KING WAS CALLED IN ALMOST WITHOUT YOUR INPUT ON THIS DECISION. UM, YOU WERE RUNNING THE MOVEMENT, AT THAT POINT, SNCC, THAT IS. NO FEELINGS ABOUT, THIS IS OUR TERRITORY, WHY DO WE NEED HIM?

Charles Sherrod:

See, it's, this was one of the first movements. Dr. King was only a name to us. Uh, when I say only a name, I mean, he was Dr. King, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and we all adored him from the beginning, and we all loved him, appreciated him, respected him for what he had done, in uh, in Alabama. As time went on, see, you're talking about a time, a period of maybe a year. I'm talking about a period of two or three months, first of all, or first off, when we were in jail, so Dr. King, his influence in Albany was minimal. See, we had already gained the momentum. It was the frustration on the parts of the adults who were then in charge while we were in jail, that brought, that made them feel like they needed Dr. King. As I said to you, when, when you're in jail, large groups of us are in jail, all kinds of things happen. Kids are being hurt, uh, kids without uh, physical needs, females that need, physical needs that they had. Uh, somebody's getting smacked, uh, a pregnant woman was kicked and later lost her baby. All kinds of pressures are brought upon the leadership, and so they're wiggling, trying to get from under that pressure. But, pressure is also being brought against the opposition, which is what the intention of the whole thing. But this pressure, one old person said, pressure make a monkey eat pebble, and we just pushed pressure, pressure, pressure. Sometime we don't know who controls this, who controls the other. So we stomp around and stomp and see whose feet we get. And then somebody's going to holler, "Oh, you got me! So then, when he hollers, that's the direction we go in. And that was the general strategy. We didn't know what we were doing.** We'd never done it before. Nobody had never got that many people to go to jail. And I'm not talking about just the hoi polloi, I'm talking about the upper crust. The great people in Albany. Even some white folk went to jail with us, from Albany. So we were steam-rolling. But there was a lot of pressure, and the people were upset, the leadership were feeling all this responsibility on their shoulder. I know they had it on their shoulder, and I understood it. I couldn't do nothing for them in jail. They wouldn't let them talk to me. All I could do was hold to the folk who were around me. Cause they segregated us, you know. They, they took some of us to one jail, and they took us fifty miles away, and they tried to, to break us down in jail. Cause they wanted us out of jail. But the young kids uh, sixteen years old, from three to sixteen years old, we had from three to sixteen years old going to jail. When they threw them out of jail, they got back in the line, see, and that was their instruction. And that was the reason why so, why they went for Dr. King. And I thought it was good, it was easy. When we got out of jail, it was easy for us to call a mass meeting. Boom. Dr. King is here. Two thousand folk, hanging out of windows, hanging out of trees, you know. Kids from everywhere, coming from other counties, money coming in from other counties, you know. It had its disadvantages, because, as an organization, SCLC had to raise money. NAACP had to raise money. We were not fools. We understood that. See, after the fact, they come up with all these theoretical things about what happened in Albany. And perhaps, some of them were true. Sure there were conflicts. When you get a personality, I'm soft-spoken now, for the most part, 'til you get me riled up, you know. But when you get a soft-spoken personality, but a stout personality, like myself, coming head to head with uh uh uh, Dr. Wyatt T. Walker, who was the executive director at that time, I believe, of SCLC, you going to have a few fireworks. So what? What's most important? Did they talk, they don't talk about the unity we had. About the strength we had, for the first time. They talk about failure. Where's the failure? Are we not integrated in every facet? Did we stop at any time? What stopped us? Did any injunction stop us? Did any white man stop us? Did any black man stop us? Nothing stopped us in Albany, Georgia. We showed the world. We were on the front page of every newspaper in the country for longer than any uh uh I forget now what was competing with us at the time. But we out competed it, whatever it was, when it, when it slowed down, we were still rolling and moving. We were beginning to learn how to use the media. I hope I made some approach there.